As a student of journalism Remco Reiding comes back from his first journey to Russia, when his life takes an enormous turn. It is back in his hometown Amersfoort where he hears about the Soviet War Cemetery, an almost forgotten cemetery for Soviet soldiers, for the first time ever.
He is 22 years old, when he walks along lines of war graves. Hundreds of grave stones light up, when the sun shines upon them through the pine trees. He notices the mysterious alphabet. Never before has he been here, but already he feels a strange attraction to this extraordinary cemetery.
Who are these soldiers? How did they end up here? And how is it possible that Reiding, who was born and living in Amersfoort, had never heard of this Soviet War Cemetery before?
These questions constitute the beginning of a lengthy search. In the following years he dusts off supposedly lost archives to identify the soldiers. Reiding finds it particularly hard to swallow that the families of these Soviet soldiers were never informed of the fate of their loved one. As a young journalist it is an enormous challenge to rescue this cemetery from oblivion and to give a face to the soldiers, who are considered to be missing in action in their homeland.
The search leads to the farthest corners of a strange, collapsed empire: the former Soviet Union. In this country live those who stayed behind: the wives, brothers and sisters, and the children of the soldiers, who grew up without a father. For decades they are in uncertainty about the whereabouts of their beloved family members, until a tall guy from the unknown country of the Netherlands tells them where their beloved one is buried.
55 years after the end of World War II Reiding manages to trace the first relatives of soldiers who were buried in Amersfoort. Years after he first walked past the grey stones in the Soviet War Cemetery, crying relatives of soldiers stand with flowers in their hands at their father’s grave.
Meanwhile, with the help of various volunteers and organizations, he has traced more than two hundred families in the entire former Soviet Union. Click here for soldiers whose family has been found and here for soldiers whose family are being sought.
Remco Reiding has been awarded several distinctions for his research.